Harbert calls for U.S. to become united on energy

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Karen Alderman Harbert said the United States must be truly united on energy.


“We see ourselves as an energy superpower, but are we acting like one?” she asked Aug. 1 during the fourth annual Washington County Energy Symposium.


“Today, we’re living in an era of abundance, but we’re not acting like it. We’re restricting, restricting and restricting, and we’re working against ourselves.”


Harbert was the keynote speaker in the afternoon following two morning sessions at the Hilton Garden Inn, Southpointe. About 200 attended the event, conducted in conjunction with the opening round of the Mylan Classic.


She is teed off about U.S. energy policies, or lack thereof. Harbert – president and chief executive officer of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – took swings at many of the nation’s energy policies, regulations and philosophies that prevent it from realizing its energy potential.


The insitute’s mission, according to its website, energyxxi.org, “is to unify policymakers, regulators, business leaders and the American public behind a common-sense sense energy strategy to help keep America secure, prosperous and clean.”


Harbert expounded upon that mission Aug. 1 in Cecil Township.


She is certainly a proponent of developing shale gas and oil, telling the audience, “You sit on top of the heap on Marcellus Shale,” referring of course to Washington and Greene counties.


Harbert lamented that the majority of shale plays nationwide are either untapped or underdeveloped, such as in California, which “potentially could be the biggest shale state. We have to convince areas not in natural gas production to get involved in this.”


The Powerpoint presentation that accompanied her 45-minute talk extolled the employment virtues of shale, Powerpointing out that this aspect of the energy industry created 1.75 million jobs by 2012 and is projected to result in 3.5 million by 2035. Another slide stated that “Shale is the driver of (an estimated) 68 percent increase in domestic oil production by 2020.”


“We would have double-digit unemployment if not for jobs in the oil and gas industry,” Harbert said. The national jobless rate for June was 7.6 percent.


Strict limits on offshore oil and gas exploration also irk her. Harbert said that “85 percent of our waters are off limits to exploration.”


Coal has a bad name with the Obama administration and environmentalists, but not with Harbert, who supports all energy sources.


“Coal consumption is down right now, but its obituary shouldn’t be written. The good news is global coal demand is way up. Coal exports to Europe are up 27 percent and 80 percent to China. By 2020, coal will be bigger than oil.


“We have to invest in technologies and infrastructure and (process coal) more cleanly now.”


In his brief closing remarks, Barron P. McCune, co-chair of the Washington County Energy Partners, said to Harbert: “Karen, I agree with everything you said.” Then he closed with an anecdote that should resonate locally and nationally.


“I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that a prince (Alwaleed bin Talal) in Saudi Arabia (an OPEC nation) is worried that its economy will collapse because of shale oil and gas.”


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